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"Winners don't use drugs."—William S. Sessions, Director, FBI (as seen on the attract mode of all video games imported into the US between 1989 and 2000, as required by law.)
An arcade game that isn't being played goes into "attract mode," (sometimes called "advertise mode", "demo mode" or "game over mode") which is intended to attract passersby to play the game.
Typical attract modes show several of the following elements:
- The game being played by itself (with varying degrees of skill)
- Cutscenes showing the game's Backstory
- Lists of high scores
- Tutorials explaining how to play the game
- A table of values for Scoring Points (often including at least one "mystery" value in games of the Space Invaders era)
- The occasional PSA exhortation not to use drugs
Pinball games made since circa 1990, with alphanumeric or dot-matrix displays, also have attract modes similar to those in video games.
Arcade games with an attract mode will almost always have blinking text on the screen telling the player to "Insert Coin". Or they may have "Game over" meaning that at the moment, the game was unplayable. Of course.
Attract modes still appear in many console games today, to persuade customers in retail stores to buy the game, the console or both, although the attract mode often consists merely of playing the opening FMV again if the game is left idle at the title screen too long.
Attract modes that specifically show gameplay or plot elements are Precaps.
- In the infamous arcade game Berzerk, one of the earliest uses of a voice chip in arcade games is apparent when the game says, "Coin detected in pocket," during the attract mode.
- In the equally infamous game Sinistar, the game does more than simply try to attract players — it actually taunts them, using its voice chip. Phrases such as "Beware, I live!" and "Run, coward! I am Sinistar!" were frequently heard in arcades whose managers didn't shut off the voice during the attract sequence (according to MAME, each Sinistar machine is fitted with a HC-55516 voice synthesizer chip). It wasn't a cheap game to own for most arcade owners.
- Sonic the Hedgehog's idle mode was somewhat controllable. In some versions of the game, holding A, B and C would prevent Sonic from being able to jump. Most notable during the Green Hill Zone Act 1 section, as Sonic would run straight into the game's first enemy and die.
- Super Mario Land 2 also had demos you could control with a specific button combination. Normally, the demos would end after a set number of button presses, but one of the demo stages was actually beatable in that amount. Doing so would crash the game.
- The game for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has one of these, an amazingly cinematic trailer-esque sequence set to the movie's main theme music.
- Mario Kart games have always had several attract modes, playing in sequence if you left the title screen undisturbed. The original SNES game had modes showcasing two-player Grand Prix, Time Trial, Battle Mode and one-player Grand Prix.
- The Wii version even has Mario and Luigi demonstrating how to race with the included Wii Wheel like they are the players in the real world before going to a more traditional in game attract mode.
- The arcade game Galaga had an attract mode that, due to a bug, you could actually control...and reset the machine, even.
- Salamander 2 also has an interactive attract mode, though it's implemented on purpose.
- Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles had a pretty cool one where the different Jedi show off their powers.
- Super Metroid has several sets of demos, the initial ones just showing normal gameplay but progressing far enough into the game would unlock demos that actually show various tips and tricks, most of them being obscure stuff you wouldn't think of doing such as the charge beam-powerbomb combos and fancy ways to use the Speed Booster.
- The attract mode in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes had, besides showing off the game, a title screen theme that did not play anywhere else (a snippet of it appears before the credits).
- The NES port of Arkanoid would show demo play from different levels, up to level 23. A bug enabled you to trick the game into thinking the Game Over screen from these demos were real, enabling you to use a continue and start the game at level 23.
- Dead Space has an attract mode that showcases the many ways you can die in the game.
- Not only coin-op arcade games do this. Console games, too, will have attract modes that activate if idle, for use in video game stores. Ghost Hunter's attract mode features the voice of Michael Gambon booming out, "There are thousands of ghost stories... into some intrude the living."
- Most console RPGs will have some sort of story-related sequence play out while waiting for the player to press Start. Some examples which aren't just the opening sequence which would automatically play when you start the game:
- Chrono Trigger's montage of events from various time eras accompanied by the very appropriate track "Premonition".
- Xenosaga 2's haunting vocal melody played while a mysterious device is being assembled. It's the ES Asher having its Vessel of Anima being installed (or rather, the ES Asher being built around the Vessel of Anima).
- Final Fantasy VIII's "Overture" illustrating the weapons of the main characters in black and white.
- Final Fantasy IX contains brief cuts of other FMVs in the game as well as a sweeping view of the world map which isn't seen anywhere else. Similarly, Final Fantasy XII's attract mode mainly consists of cuts from existing FMVs.
- Final Fantasy X 2's homage to FF 8 involves a gorgeous piano melody illustrating monochrome examples of weapons belonging to various dresspheres, with the main characters suggested nearby but never shown.
- Final Fantasy Tactics (the original release) has no less than three or four totally separate FM Vs that cycle around, ranging from story introduction to gameplay footage to just cool stuff.
- Vagrant Story, in an interesting take, shows an FMV that features a dancer playing Mullenkamp, the deity of one of the factions in the game. It's notable in that it's the only FMV in the entire game, and features practically nothing about the game itself. Leave the game unattended a while longer, and it will show the meeting at the VKP Headquarters where Ashley first gets his assignment.
- The DS rerelease of Final Fantasy IV features an awesome FMV introducing nearly all the characters, and making use of both screens (occasionally by having credits on one screen, action on the other, and also having action going on both screens, such as the shot of the Tower of Babil.)
- The Tales Of series generally has anime cutscenes with fast-paced (often vocal) music. Sometimes it's the only anime cutscene other than the ending. Similarly with Valkyrie Profile.
- Add Atelier Iris do that list.
- The Wild Arms series also uses anime cutscenes set to some song. Later games alternate this with some random battle demonstrations, but the first game actually showed a very plot-related ingame cutscene of some backstory... that you never see anywhere else. The remake kept this.
- Both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2 feature orchestral remixes of their main themes accompanying a few verses of poetry and quick cuts of scenes that take place within the game.
- Parasite Eve has a fast-paced, horrifying montage with FMV cuts interspersed with scientific DNA technobabble (similar to Metal Gear Solid 2).
- The Game Boy Advance remakes of Final Fantasy IV and V feature one of the main themes from the game playing while a brief explanation of the story is shown.
- Persona 3 (here) and Persona 4 (here) alternate between a short animated music video and a montage of gameplay and cutscene highlights playing over a second song. (The FES remake of Persona 3 has its own montage, separate from the original.)
- Lux-Pain has an anime-style animated opening sequence, complete with Japanese vocals, that introduces the main characters and the silent plot. Not bad for a Nintendo DS game.
- Nippon Ichi games either show story-related cutscenes or cycle through clips of gameplay demonstrating some of the more interesting moves available.
- Madden games pick two random teams (that are not historical teams or NFL Europe teams), and pits them head to head in a full CPU-controlled game, using the current settings.
- Many early First-Person Shooter games, starting with Wolfenstein 3-D, would display demo recordings of the game if left idle at the title screen. Interestingly, such demos almost always ended with the recording player's death.
- Both Guitar Hero and Rock Band would have random songs being performed if left at the title screen for too long.
- Guitar Hero 5 takes it a step further and has the attract mode be "Party Mode", which takes random on-disc or DLC songs (no customs, including Neversoft's) and has the currently set up band onstage performing them while allowing people to jump in and out at will on any instrument without worrying about failing. Additionally, anyone playing can pause without interrupting the song and switch difficulty or handedness, or even request a song change (which is one of the few actions that does stop playback).
- Rock Band 2, on the other hand, loops between two songs: "Let There Be Rock" and the "Hello There" video.
- Leaving the start screen on Zelda games idle for a time usually brings up something. In the two original NES games, players were treated to a scrolling explanation (famously misspelled, in The Legend of Zelda) of the game's plot. Most recently, The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess features an attract mode with a lengthy montage of cutscenes and game action set to some of the game's best music. Ocarina of Time also has one that shows brief scenes of the Fire Temple, the Spirit Temple or the Forest Temple.
- ...to GO!! to SHINE!!
- "Transcending history and the world, a tale of souls and swords eternally retold." (title screen without intro)
- "The heroes finally meet under the star of destiny" (gameplay demo)
- Movie example, or rather game-within-a-movie example: "Greetings Starfighter! You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada!" (Especially noteworthy in that the movie also shows the game's glitched Attract Mode, when the machine goes nuts in response to detecting either Centauri or an alien assassin in the vicinity.)
- Glider PRO, if left too long on the title screen, will start an automated playthrough of Demo House.
- Some games in the Mortal Kombat series allowed you to move a joystick or press a button to show certain high score lists during attract mode. Very nice if you wanted to see whether someone had beaten your best score without waiting around. The arcade version of Ultimate MK 3 had a fake character, a purple ninja named "Rain", appear in attract mode, although he became playable in the home versions and later games.
- Bioshock has a particularly chilling one.
- Not all classic coin-ops had gameplay demo sequences. The attract mode of The Tower of Druaga consists entirely of the title screen, the high score table, the title screen again, the Opening Narration, the title screen again, etc.
- Later Ace Combat games would feature a video sequence if left alone at the title screen. Most of the time it's just a trailer for the game itself.
- Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games alternate between replaying the opening movie and gameplay footage. Generally not very exciting footage, for some reason.
- Atari's eight-bit home computers (the 400 and 800 and later variants) had what was commonly referred to as "attract mode" built-in. In truth, this feature was more akin to a primitive screensaver, simply cycling the color palette after about nine minutes of no input, in order to avoid screen burn. (This, of course, didn't preclude games from including a "real" attract mode).
- DJMAX Technika 2 has one of the more interactive examples; during the Attract Mode, most of the time there are buttons that allow you to cycle between the tutorial, the score rankings, and the song preview. The former two are straightforward enough, but song preview allows you to select a song to hear a brief clip of, so you can hear what it sounds like before starting a game.
- Coin operated kiddie rides gotten on the bandwagon since the early 90s. Many Japanese and Italian made rides would play a snippet of the song that it would play while running (which may or may not be accompanied with speech inviting kids to ride the thing). Those made in the UK plays back speech snippets (which among other things, invites any passing kids to play with it, explains the type of coins accepted by the ride as most rides originating from the country are multi-coin capable, as well as the vendor's service phone number), but music sample is optional and not all rides play it. Some are just plain illogical (the interactive van series of rides by R.G. Mitchells are often cited by parents as Nightmare Fuel- this is why). Certain new china-made rides are starting to have an attract mode too, which has nothing to do with whatever music the ride actually plays. Many new lower end rides however do not have an attract mode at all.
- Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3DX+ has a song during the attract mode called "Stay Where You Are" where a female singer repeats the title over and over. Guess what the game wants you to do.
- Left to its own devices, the main menu of Devil May Cry plays some helpful demos of Dante's moves in combat, as well as a story trailer.
- Kirby Super Star, a game made up of several sub-games, will play a series of story sequences explaining the plot of each of the sub-games if you let it sit at the title sequence long enough. What most people don't realize is that letting the game cycle through these scenes twice will play an extra scene that acts as a prologue to the final sub-game, Milkyway Wishes. Since many players are unlikely to ever find this scene, the final boss appears to be a Giant Space Flea From Nowhere.
- Though each sub-game will show its plot at its own sub-title screen as well.
- Night Trap has this.
- The Touhou games do the standard showing off how the game is played thing. Why isn't entirely clear, considering that you're not going to find them in an arcade and there's not a whole lot of tricks to show.
- Some Super Robot Wars titles have a sequence of Mecha performing their signature moves with theme songs playing.
- Fire Emblem games give short descriptions of units while they show off their moves. Genealogy of the Holy War adds some dialogue and map shots.
- The latter's actually contained over 40 possible scenes, progressively unlocked by completing multiple playthroughs or ending with a better rank. Most notably, some confirm important plot points that are only hinted at in the actual story, such as Levin dying at the end of the 1st gen and being resurrected by Holsety.
- Chrono Cross has one that shows some events that don't actually happen in the game, and with characters that you can't have at the points displayed, and has The Dream That Time Dreams/Time of the Dreamwatch play. Except for in one obscure alternate ending, this is the only time it plays.